The dynamics of dominance: open questions, challenges, and solutions

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: This is version 3 of this Preprint.


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Eli Strauss, Daizaburo Shizuka


Although social hierarchies are recognized as dynamic systems, they are typically treated as static entities for practical reasons. Here, we ask what we can learn from a dynamical view of dominance, and provide a research agenda for the next decades. We identify five broad questions at the individual, dyadic, and group levels, exploring the causes and consequences of individual changes in rank, the dynamics underlying dyadic dominance relationships, and the origins and impacts of social instability. Although challenges remain, we propose avenues for overcoming them. We suggest distinguishing between different types of social mobility to provide conceptual clarity about hierarchy dynamics at the individual level, and emphasize the need to explore how these dynamic processes produce dominance trajectories over individual lifespans and impact selection on status-seeking behavior. At the dyadic level, there is scope for deeper exploration of decision-making processes leading to observed interactions, and how stable but malleable relationships emerge from these interactions. Across scales, model systems where rank is manipulable will be extremely useful for testing hypotheses about dominance dynamics. Long-term individual-based studies will also be critical for understanding the impact of rare events, and for interrogating dynamics that unfold over lifetimes and generations.



Biology, Integrative Biology, Life Sciences


aggression network, life history, rank changes, social instability, social status, transitivity


Published: 2021-07-01 20:00

Last Updated: 2021-10-28 16:41

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CC-BY Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 International

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